I Stopped Treating My RPG Company Like a Business

A number of years ago,  I dropped everything, and I mean EVERYTHING and just pursued producing fantasy RPG adventures. OK, I'll be honest, Dungeons & Dragons adventures as a third-party-publisher.

Wow How Fun!

It wasn't easy, it wasn't always fun, it is harder than one might think to make a living at running kickstarters that produce Dungeons & Dragons adventures.. I was told by someone far more experienced in the realm than I, that the best way to make a million dollars in RPGs is to start with TWO million dollars. It's true, you can buy your way to the top and more money and success in the realm with piles of money. When you have money to flash around in the RPG world, people clamor for your attention because they see a path to... some of your money. Come in with a stack, and let some folks see you spending a little, you'll find yourself on blogs, podcasts, videos, streams, and the like. They are looking for the "hook up" but hooking you up with PR. In that moment, you need to have your personality and target set.

It's ok. I don't want to discourage anyone or attack anyone. These posts are a way to share the journey of a free-range creative.

Tangling With Business

My name is registered and a S-Corp. The wisest business move I ever made. But when RPGs became a business model and means for an income, it became more challenging to produce the kind of things that created contentment. Each project was starting with what would bring the Kickstarter numbers and sales. Struggling to pay bills while producing fun RPG content wasn't going hand in hand. It is incredibly frustrating to see other third party publishers launch bad, or worse - copied, content and immediately see tens of thousands of dollars. While I was producing unique content and barely scratching the surface at fractional amounts.

There is indeed a strange social circle in RPGs, particularly for those publishing older edition content. A circle that is easily swum by wealthy white cis het conservative men. Look, don't get me wrong, this isn't a jealous jab at other producers, it's a real piece of the industry you have to address with yourself one way or another when you dive into this pool. I'm not wealthy, conservative, or particularly good-looking, so my recipe is incomplete even if I have a number of qualifications into the "club".

It is infinitely more enjoyable to set all the social circle pieces aside and just be a kid with the gaming books. All the "meetings in the bar at the conventions", all the shmoozing around for promotions and supports that come with the appearance of wealth, cigars, and Mr. Monopoly monocles, is simply exhausting and exasperating.

Getting in the business of not being in business

I have begun working outside the RPG realm again, in a number of places. Slowly the energy is coming back to produce, write, even illustrate. Whether or not any of my RPGs will sell is of no importance. I can now put together adventures just for myself alone at my own pace. I work on things that make a better OSR, go more places, and incorporate more things of importance to me and those like me.

I enjoy including other cultures, genders, and orientations that sit naturally in a story. When a hobby becomes a business model, it can start to lose the spark and inspiration that brought you to it in the first place. I'm not chasing around bigger sharks in the food chain begging for scraps. I don't need their scraps. I don't care what happens in the RPG social chains. I don't need to know, nor do I need to attach my lips to asses.

What's in the Works?

Over at Fehu Games, the next project is old school adventure that flips between Swords & Wizardry, OSE, and Labyrinth Lord. I am currently expanding Desert of the Dawn Fish, but it could change tomorrow. What is being created are adventures like those we used to have in the early days. The infinite possibilities of a pile of graph paper. I want to embrace the opportunity to do better things socially in OSR games.

What's the point of all this?

The point, dear friend and readers who have followed this far, is to not be afraid to say fuck it! I don't need any of this! Because that's when you are free to make the best things you have in you.

Art Tribe